The Germknödel is a traditional Austrian dish, which originated from the Viennese and Bohemian cuisine. A Germknödel is a yeast dumpling filled with plum jam and served with poppy seeds, powdered sugar and lots of melted butter or vanilla sauce on top. Plum jam is a special kind of jam and it is referred to as Powidl. The plums are cooked for 24 hours without any other ingredients except for unripe walnuts, which give the jam its dark color. Its tart flavor, makes Powidl the perfect filling to contrast the sweet dumpling. In Austrian ski huts the Germknödel is certainly one of the favorites on the menu. The delicious Germknödl can be eaten as a desert or as a main dish.
In Austria it is common to eat a sweet dish not only as a desert, but also as a main course. Due to the main ingredient we call them ‘Mehlspeisen’, literally meaning ‘flour dish’. One reason for eating sweets as a main course was the influence of the Catholic Church. During the Lenten season, the seven weeks before Easter, the members of the Church were not allowed to eat meat. Since fish was very expensive, people made up meals with vegetables, eggs and flour. Over the years the meals developed into sweet dishes such as, 'Kaiserschmarrn', 'Buchteln', or 'Marillenknödel'. In the 19th century the term ‘Mehlspeise’ was coined and since then it is a synonym for ‘Süßspeise’, meaning sweet dish. It is typical in Austrian to have a soup as a starter and then eat a ‘Mehlspeise’ as the main dish.
In Austrian supermarkets frozen Germknödel are sold and all it needs to prepare them is basically boil them for 20 minutes, top them with poppy seeds, powdered sugar and melted butter. Alright, when lacking time this is very convenient, but like most frozen foods, it is not a worthwhile alternative to the homemade version.
The first time I ate a Germknödel was in a ski hut in the mountains. I was surprised to see so much melted butter poured on top, but then I was positively surprised by the scrumptious flavor of the mixture of poppy seeds, powdered sugar and butter that covered the dumpling. That is when it became my favorite dish. When I got home from skiing I asked my Mom to buy Germknödel and cook them for dinner the next day. She decided to prepare them from scratch and in doing that she made my day. Soon after that my Mom taught me how to make Germknödel. My friends from school used to come around and we had great fun making Germknödel and eating them together.
While I was visiting friends in Mexico last year, I wanted to cook a typical Austrian dish. My first choice was to cook Germknödel, but when I tried to find poppy seeds, all attempts were in vain. Apparently they are not sold in Mexican stores or markets, or at least it was impossible for me to track them down. So, if you live in a country where the ingredients required to cook Germknödel are not available, the best solution would probably be to come straight to Austria and experience this delicious dish on site. The Germknödel is a reason to come to Austria on its own, but of course the country has a lot more to offer.
I love Germknödel, especially on cold winter days. Just try it and you will love them too!
Recipe for 4 servings:
- 2 tbsp yeast
- 4 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup softened butter
- 1 cup lukewarm milk
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 egg
- 1 package vanilla sugar or 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cups plum jam
- 1 tbsp rum (optional)
- ¾ cup ground poppy seeds
- powdered sugar
- ½ cup melted butter
For the dough mix the flour, salt, vanilla, eggs and sugar in a bowl. In another bowl, mix the lukewarm milk with the yeast and stir until all of the yeast has dissolved. Then, pour the mixture into the flour and knead everything together with the softened butter. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Cover the dough and leave it to rise for one hour until it has doubled its size.
Now divide the dough into 8 pieces and pad them flat and round on a board until they are about 4 inches in diameter. Fill each of the pieces of dough with a tablespoon of the plum jam and carefully form round dumplings. Make sure that the seam is completely closed. Place the dumplings on a board with a dishtowel covering them and let them rest for 10 minutes.
Boil water in a large pot, put some salt in the water and then put in the Germknödel (about 4 at a time in order to give them space to rise). Let them simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on. Do not take the lid off, otherwise the dumplings will not rise properly.
When finished, take the Germknödel out of the water, place them in a bowl, top the dumplings with poppy seeds and powdered sugar and pour butter or vanilla sauce over the top. Serve right away. Enjoy the delicious dumplings!